Reflectionary, UCC Daily Devotional

The Doorway

Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. – John 13:1 (NRSV)

Jesus gathered the disciples for a dinner we have come to call the Last Supper, a story we tell every time we gather for Communion. We ritualize the different events in John’s Gospel on Maundy Thursday with the washing of feet (or hands for the more cautious among us). In one version Jesus serves his followers, and in the other he serves himself to us as the bread of life and the cup of blessing.

With my Cousin Jack

The way we tell those stories brings us to a threshold between what was and is to come, like a doorway between memory and possibility that is right now and yet not. We tell our own stories like that. I remember my father at an airport handing me a crisp $100 bill to take my son out to lunch. I remember his cousin, years later, making sure to sit with me at a family wedding to put me at ease. I remember eating a holiday meal with my godmother after she moved into a nursing home, an effort that cost her more than I knew. Every time I tell their stories we stand in the doorway together.

The Gospels tell us Jesus ate meals with his disciples again after the Resurrection, which makes it odd to call that Supper “Last.” It gives me hope for meals to be eaten somewhere beyond the doorway, farther than I can see now, with nothing of past love lost.

Prayer

Gracious God, we thank you for love that lasts until the end and beyond. Amen.


Written for the United Church of Christ Daily Devotional.

Reflectionary, UCC Daily Devotional

What to do?

I detest the company of evildoers, and I don’t sit with wicked people. I wash my hands – they are innocent! – Psalm 26:5-6a (CEB)

I started the day mad, chewing on the wrongs of someone else. Then I considered what I might do in response. My gut reaction tends to be “flight”: to figure out what can I quit or leave (or slam shut) to show my displeasure or disapproval, to show how deeply “I detest the company of evildoers.” I look back, though, and remember times I reacted to a communal injury by fleeing, and I can see that my decision hurt me, or hurt innocent parties, while having zero impact whatsoever on the deserving target of my anger.

Were my hands washed? Were they innocent? What to do? What to do…

“I don’t sit with wicked people,” claims the psalmist, but sometimes, often, just going to church and sitting down with an average group of people means we’re doing exactly that. They’re sitting with us and our wickedness, too. And the challenge and the beauty of living in community, at its best, is that the connection we care about having to one another offers the opportunity to hold each other accountable.

The harm done by the person whose actions I’m mad about today is real and is causing a widening circle of damage. The honest truth is my running away or huffily washing my hands of the situation won’t help anyone. So I’m going to take note of my gut reaction but not let it rule me. I’m going to breathe and pray and take more than a minute to listen for God before I decide how to respond.

Prayer

Holy One, you know why we’re mad. Help us to see what to do. Amen.


Written for the United Church of Christ Daily Devotional.

Psalm 128, Reflectionary, The Words of Her Mouth, UCC Daily Devotional

Around the Table

Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table. – Psalm 128:3 (NRSV)

In these early weeks of the school year, I remember one long-past when my second son went off to an arts high school far from home. We flew from Maine to Michigan. I made his bed in a tiny shared room, then attended a meeting that rated the kinds of helicopter parents we should avoid being: a Black Hawk helicopter, a traffic copter, even Harold the helicopter (friend of Thomas the Tank Engine). When it was time to say goodbye, we stood near the lake on campus, and I put my hands on his face and prayed for him, words of blessing and benediction.

I remember the feeling more than the words, a strange mixture of pride and grief, excitement about his possibilities for learning tempered by an awareness of how much I would miss his voice in my house and his face at the dinner table. I made a commitment to be available but not to hover, to park my helicopter in the hangar.

I know better than to read the words of Psalm 128 as materially literal, a prayer that assures us that if we walk in God’s ways, we will prosper. But that son is 30 now, a parent himself, holding his own child and murmuring words of blessing into her ears. And there are few joys greater than sitting around the table and hearing her infant laughter, a song of praise and wonder reminding us of what it means to be happy: to look at the faces of those we treasure and know what it is to love and be loved.

Prayer

Holy One, all the tables where we gather are your tables. Our fruitfulness is from you and for you. Amen.


Written for the United Church of Christ Daily Devotional.